Jon Rahm won the richest Masters in history by shooting a 12-under 276, capped by a final-round 69, to claim more than $3 million in prize money and bragging rights for the PGA Tour. For Rahm, of Spain, the day had a sense of destiny to it—it came 40 years to the day after Seve Ballesteros’ last Masters win—on Ballesteros’ birthday, as well—and 28 years after José María Olazábal won. Olazábal was 28 at the time, the same age as Rahm now.
The win pushes Rahm to 15th in career prize money with $48 million, his latest prize a tribute to the new largesse in golf. On Saturday Augusta National announced a total purse of $18 million, up from $11.5 million in 2021, a 43% increase in two years. The winner’s share has doubled since 2014, from $1.6 million to the $3.22 Rahm took home. Such purse inflation across men’s golf has followed the arrival of LIV Golf and its $20 million payouts.
The PGA Tour vs. LIV was a not-so-subtle undercurrent throughout the week. The tournament started with questions about whether LIV’s shorter tournaments with shallower fields would prepare its players for major tournament golf. Those doubts seemed to prove true in Brooks Koepka, who won last week’s LIV tour event and began the final round of the Masters with a two-shoot lead only to fade by shooting a 75. At the same time, fellow LIVers Phil Mickelson finished with a 65 while Patrick Reed shot a 68, but their late runs came when they were well behind the lead and playing under little pressure. In other words, there’s enough conflicting evidence to provide ammo for both sides.
In all, 12 of the 18 LIV players made the cut, led by Koepka and Mickelson’s tie for second and Reed’s T4. Despite those showings, the overall influence was likely minimal. “The win could be worth $10 million in attention and exposure,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing analyst at Pinnacle Advertising. “But will it make a difference? I don’t think so. There are still political issues that turn people off, a strange 54-hole format and a weak TV deal with the CW, which no one’s really watching.”
Even the famously mild-mannered Jim Nantz seemed to serve up a gentle dig at LIV’s TV deal. During the third round, one of Koepka’s drives rolled to a stop in the section of fairway where fans walk, at which Nantz quipped, “There he is, right on the CW—the crosswalk.”
Some LIV players wore their team gear, hats and even jerseys, all week, but that didn’t do much for the cause either, because, as Dorfman noted, “no one knows what [the logos] are.” Koepka, notably, wore straight Nike gear. “Some of our players are sponsored by other major brands. … They cannot wear any other logos,” a LIV spokesperson said in an email. “Those that are not under contract with a major clothing sponsor wear their team logos.”
Mickelson swore that his game has been coming around and he was on the verge of breaking out. Perhaps. Or maybe playing in front of actual crowds on a classic course in a tournament that means something brought out his best. It’s a theory.
Another theory that’s been circulating? Koepka has buyer’s remorse, and a few of his comments during the week did nothing to counter the narrative. “It’s just competitively where you miss playing against them, right,” he said about facing the game’s top players. “Because you want Rory [McIlroy] to play his best and Scottie [Scheffler] to play his best and Jon [Rahm} to play his best and go toe-to-toe with them. I do miss that, and that’s what I think makes these majors so cool.”
Koepka made the move to LIV while struggling with injuries to both knees, which impacted his play in 2021 and 2022. His right knee got bad enough that he wondered at times if he’d ever play at an elite level again. Asked if healthy knees would have led him to make a different choice, he said, “Honestly, yeah, probably, if I’m being completely honest. I think it would have been. But I’m happy with the decision I made.”
Koepka looked like the dominant player who won four majors in three years during the early going and having him in the field improved the event. In end though, Rahm was better, playing steadily throughout and pulling away late with birdies on 13 and 14 to seal his second win in a major.
With the green jacket secured, it became clear the connections to his countrymen and the importance of the win, meant more to him than any statements about tour superiority. “History of the game is a big part of why I play and one of the reasons why I play, and Seve being one of them,” he said during the jackets ceremony in Butler Cabin. “For me to get it done on the 40th anniversary of his win, his birthday, on Easter Sunday, it’s incredibly meaningful.”